Fairbanks storm damage 2011
The company manufactures a variety of hand-trucks, dollies, casters and wheels that are typically used for industrial purposes all over the world.
Plant Manager Mark White said the welding and robotics section of the plant, which was constructed in the 1970s, was brought back online in stages following the tornado.
“We immediately got generators in here and started firing up sections of the building, so literally within a week we had some of it functional,” White said. “We didn’t get main power restored until the end of February for the total plant.”
The tornado struck right at 5 p.m. on this date last year. White said most of the staff had left the plant at 3 p.m., and an engineer was the only person in the building when the tornado hit. The F-2 storm slammed into the northwest corner, the newest section of the 125-year-old manufacturing facility on Division Street where all of the welding, blanking and stamping takes place.
Engineer Dennis Schultz said he felt like he had been inside a blender for 15-20 seconds.
A testament to the foresight of the company and the hard work of its employees, White said Fairbanks didn’t miss a single shipping day during the whole process, and employees did not miss a single day’s work.
“It just amazes me that we continued to operate while undergoing the rebuilding process,” White said.
A robotic welder was totally destroyed by the storm; a heat treat furnace, which hardens metal, is still being rebuilt and probably will be back online within another four to six weeks. Several MIG welders were also damaged by the falling debris from west and north facing walls that were blown down and the subsequent rain that poured in the building.
White said the company had no problems with its insurance carrier but declined to say how much it cost to rebuild the section of the plant that took the heaviest hit from the storm. White also said his research of the company’s records indicates the only two insurance claims that had ever been filed by the company for damages to the building were the result of the April storm in 2011, which caused some roof damages, then the December storm.
White also issued a special thank you to Bob Lee at COBA Electric and Tom Helbing with Helbing Builders for their work at the plant. He also stressed that the employees of Fairbanks were unbelievable in their willingness to work through challenging conditions.
The manager said the storm certainly caused physical issues for a while, but never created a fiscal problem for the company.
On Friday, Rome antique dealer Rebekah Skelton presented White an antique wheelbarrow that she had in her Red Barn Antiques museum, 10 Burton Road. The wheelbarrow, with a sheet metal flat load bearing section and wooden sidewalls, was manufactured by Clifford “Pop” Jackson at Fairbanks approximately 50 years ago. Jackson retired about 15 years ago, according to White.